Nordmann's Greenshank Tringa guttifer Scientific name definitions
Version: 2.0 — Published February 19, 2021
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Conservation and Management
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Endangered. Although Nordmann's Greenshank was listed as “Threatened” in 1988, its status was revised and updated to “Endangered” in 1994 due to its small and declining population (151). The world population is considered between 1,200–2,000 individuals, including 600–1,300 breeding adults (118, 82, 90, 83, 150, 73, 86). Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the species is listed in Appendix I (species that are threatened with extinction). Under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) it is also listed under Appendix I (endangered migratory species).
The species is listed in the Red Data Books of the Russian Federation and Japan. It is also listed under the Regional Red Data Books of Khabarovsk, Primorsky, and Kamchatka Krais, as well as under Sakhalin and Magadan Oblasts (18, 155, 156, 117, 54, 75, 150). In China, the species is listed as a “Class II” protected species under its Wildlife Protection Law, declaring it a species under special state protection (39).
Formal protection is either lacking or non-existent throughout most of the range. In general, only 1% of coastal East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF) sites are within a protected area’s boundary (157). Only recently have sections of the Rudong mudflats, including Tiaozini Wetland Park, been nominated as a World Heritage site despite years of international awareness of its significance. On the species’ overwintering grounds many important roost sites are privately-owned aquaculture operations with little opportunity to gain legal protection (92). The Inner Gulf of Thailand, one of the most important areas for the species, remains largely unprotected (73). In Bangladesh, although a complex of wetlands from Sonadia Island to Hasher Char are designated as an “Ecologically Critical Area” by the government, there are still proposals to develop liquified natural gas terminals, a coal-fired power plant, and a tourism sector within them (87, 88, 99). Hopefully the establishment of Nijhum Dwip Marine Protected Area (MPA) will prevent mass coastal development in the area. In Russia, although the lagoons of northeastern Sakhalin Island are recognized as marine Important Bird Areas (IBA), biodiversity hotspots, and critically important to the species, the area has no formal protection (158, 159, 42).
Local governments in the EAAF are resistant to designate coastal wetlands as protected areas (PAs) as it may limit future opportunities for economic growth; subsequently, PAs are often established based on their low commercial value rather than a high biodiversity value (160). In Russia, actions of federal and regional authorities have weakened the system of PAs, leading to subsequent resource overexploitation and habitat degradation (161). Many PAs cannot support a high number of migratory species because they lack necessary funding, habitat heterogeneity, appropriate management, or adequate size (77, 160, 162). Inadequate communication and collaboration between governmental, non-governmental, and private entities exacerbates poor PA implementation (160). For example, China’s PAs are divided into three zones: core (fully protected), buffer (only for research), and experimental (education and tourism). However, because the coastal PAs are often vast, they are impossible to patrol and resource exploitation is pervasive even in core areas (77, 163). PAs also suffer from lackadaisical law enforcement, with officials either being negligent to illegal activities or simply not having the resources to enforce local laws (141, 164). For example, Russian PAs are mainly separated into federal nature reserves (locally known as zapovedniks; IUCN category Ia), national parks (IUCN category II), state level reserves (zakazniks; IUCN category IV), and provincial nature monuments (IUCN category III) (159, 165). State and province level PAs often suffer from understaffing and a lack of resources, leading some of them to be considered “paper parks” i.e. legal PAs that fail to provide any effective management or enforcement (166, 167).
Effects of Human Activity
Around the world, abundance of monitored animal populations has declined by 68%, with a 45% reduction in the Asian Pacific alone (168). Migratory shorebirds in the EAAF are especially vulnerable as the EAAF is considered the most vulnerable flyway in the world; it has the highest proportion of threatened and endangered species, and shorebird decline rates are higher than in any other flyway (81, 157). Threats throughout the flyway are widespread, varied and may impact Nordmann’s Greenshank.
Habitat Loss and Degradation
The rate of habitat loss in the EAAF is greater than in any other flyway (169). Migratory shorebirds are especially vulnerable to habitat loss as they follow a narrow migratory corridor and pass through the Yellow Sea bottleneck, relying on a handful of key sites along the way (118). The main drivers of habitat loss are development, reclamation, invasive species, climate change, and degradation. The species is particularly susceptible to habitat loss as it requires habitats that are already in short supply. The species needs the combination of three very specific habitat types on its breeding grounds (see Habitat: Habitat in Breeding Range), and its dearth may significantly limit the populations’ reproductive output (170, 41). Similarly, they require “traditional” roosting sites (close proximity to foraging areas and a suitable water depth) throughout their overwintering range, which may also be limited (92). Any factors that further curb the availability or suitability of these habitats (wildfires or changing land-use practices for example) poses a significant threat to the species’ population (61).
A rapidly growing human population applies immense pressures on coastal natural resources and drives increasing urbanization: ~45% of the world’s human population lives along the EAAF, with ~650 million people along the Yellow Sea alone (77, 169). Because this human population requires a lot of food, large tracts of wetland are converted to agriculture (aquaculture ponds, rice-paddies, and saltpans; collectively known as artificial wetlands) (83). Asia accounts for 90% of global aquaculture production, with two-thirds occurring in China (169). Although artificial wetlands do provide some roosting and foraging value for shorebirds, they do not support the same abundance, richness, or density as natural wetlands and are at high risk of production cessation and conversion to other land-uses (94, 97, 171, 172, 173, 112). Along the Sea of Okhotsk coast in Russia, human density is low; however, settlements concentrate in deltas and estuaries, i.e., higher biodiversity areas and preferred habitat for the species (70).
As cities grow larger, more habitat is converted into buildings and infrastructure, further fragmenting and destroying wetlands. For example, Bangkok is rapidly creeping into the Inner Gulf of Thailand, one of the main overwintering areas of the species (94, 95, 174, 73). Long concrete seawalls are erected to protect lives and livelihoods from rising sea levels; subsequently, suffocating former tidal areas, reducing available habitat and completely eliminating them during high tides (175, 84, 176). Power plants, dams, and windfarms are built to supply energy, destroying and polluting the wetlands around them (177, 169). Dams also greatly impact estuarine ecosystem structure and productivity by reducing sediment inputs (77, 178, 175). Asia's largest offshore windfarm in Rudong, China displaces birds and possibly causes collisions (84).
In Russia, the fossil-fuel extraction industry (seismic surveying, geological exploration, off-shore drilling platforms, pipelines, refineries, shipping lanes, air-transport terminals, roads, and worker housing) in coastal Primorsky Krai, northeast Sakhalin Island, and adjacent Sea of Okhotsk waters have caused significant environmental damage (43, 41, 49, 169, 42). For example, the development of the Sakhalin-I oil project likely extirpated Nordmann’s Greenshank from their northern Sakhalin Island breeding grounds (43, 179). More off-shore oil has recently been found near Sakhalin Island, and proposals to develop the Magadan shelf are pending approval (161). In the past, there were even proposals to construct a tidal-power plant in Tugur Bay, which would have been catastrophic to the species’ remaining breeding grounds (170, 128). Local, federal, and international governments in Russia have a strong incentive to develop the resource rich Sea of Okhotsk coast for economic growth and raising local standards of living (156).
Degradation of coastal habitats makes them significantly less productive and less attractive to shorebirds (180, 149). In Russia, bays in northern Sakhalin Island are often contaminated with the by-products of oil and gas extraction, as well as debris from large-scale logging operations (43, 161). Rubble from human settlements and ruts from heavy-duty all-terrain vehicles further reduce the quality of Russian wetlands (43, 159). Pollutants from industrial effluent, agricultural runoffs and domestic sewage cause harmful algal blooms and benthic community die-offs throughout the EAAF (70, 77, 181, 154). Oil spills are also common in the South China and Yellow Seas, the busiest shipping lanes in the world (169). Plastic pollution is widespread, especially in impoverished or remote communities where no sustainable waste-disposal infrastructure exists, often leading locals to dump rubbish directly into rivers or seas (182, 174). Plastics may be ingested by wildlife, contaminate feeding sites, ensnare animals, and reduce access to feeding and roosting sites (169).
Often development requires reclamation, the process of converting formerly aqueous areas for agriculture, industry, and human settlements, which has been a threat to coastal ecosystems in the EAAF for decades (81, 176). The process either partially or entirely makes an area unsuitable for biotic communities, and has cascading effects on surrounding wetlands by causing increased pollution, harmful algal blooms, changes in water salinity, and disrupting stable sedimentation regimes (79). Reclamation is most pervasive in China, South Korea, and Japan, but also occurs in developed southeast Asian countries (70, 183). Tidal flats along the Yellow Sea have declined by up to 65% between the mid-1950s and early-2000s due to reclamation and development (77, 175). A frequent argument to justify the habitat loss caused by reclamation is that birds will simply move to a different area; however, research shows that displaced shorebirds are often unable to relocate successfully (184, 111). Although on the surface reclamation is relatively inexpensive (driving its frequent use), if full environmental costs such as the loss of regulating ecosystem services were included in analyses, it would often be deemed economically unviable (185, 169, 186). Ironically, water abstraction (one step in the reclamation process) often causes coastal areas to sink and subsequently weaken sea defenses, damage property, and increase erosion (169).
China. Intertidal habitats in China have been reduced by ~40% since the 1990s due to reclamation and development (160, 162). Especially important and vulnerable are sites along the southwest Yellow Sea, as they may support the entire population of migrating Nordmann’s Greenshank (187, 24). Nearly 67 km2 of Tiaozini’s intertidal flats were reclaimed before the consequences to migrating shorebirds could be assessed, and another planned 600 km2 project was halted due to the sites’ World Heritage designation (84, 184). As the tidal flats of China are already considered “Endangered”, any plans to reclaim more land poses a substantial threat to remaining wetlands and the shorebirds they support (175).
South Korea. In South Korea over 50% of its tidal flats have been reclaimed and developed since the 1960s (78). The most infamous example is a 33-km long seawall project around the Saemangeum Estuary, once considered the most valuable mudflat in the Yellow Sea (188, 78). The seawall, erected in 2006, prevented critical tidal flows and left areas either perpetually inundated or dry, causing irreversible benthic die-offs and making the entire area unsuitable for birds. This subsequently decreased shorebird abundance by 95% in the two years following reclamation (72, 79, 110, 111). In 2010, South Korea formally accepted that intertidal mudflats need to be preserved (under Ramsar Resolution X.22); however, reclamation is still happening despite only 110,000 ha remaining (189, 190). Several planned reclamation ventures are in or near important shorebird sites such as Hwaseong Flyway Network Site (Nial Moores, personal communication 2020). Other notable projects include the construction of the Incheon International Airport on Yeongjong Island, the world’s largest tidal power plant from Incheon Bay to Ganghwa Island, and additions to the Songdo Global University Campus (191, 189, 111). Unfortunately, South Korea sometimes dubs the construction of seawalls as “restoration” (N. Moores, personal communication).
Southeast Asia. Reclamation of intertidal areas for aquaculture and settlements is widespread in the Inner Gulf of Thailand and Red River Delta (192, 92). Although aquaculture ponds hold significant roosting value, they are subject to dramatic land-use changes under unsustainable agricultural practices (173).
Effects of Invasive Species
Smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), a perennial deciduous grass native to the Americas, has spread rapidly across intertidal ecosystems throughout central Asia (154). Introduced to China in 1979 to assist developers in gaining sediment prior reclamation projects, it now spreads in dense swards across Chinese intertidal areas (187, 175). As it encroaches from elevated areas down to the mean water level, smooth cordgrass changes the structure of a mudflat and alters the macrobenthos community (193, 194). It also reduces available foraging habitat and limits the feeding time available to shorebirds (24). The problem is especially dire in Jiangsu, China (particularly along the Rudong and Dongtai mudflats), an area of extreme importance for migrating Nordmann’s Greenshank and a many other shorebird species (84). Reclamation and Spartina invasion in the region presents a dual threat to important shorebird habitat (195).
Hunting and Trapping
The hunting and trapping of waders is a significant problem for the conservation of Nordmann’s Greenshank. Throughout the EAAF an estimated 250,000–1.5 million waders are harvested each year, especially along coastal Russia, China, Thailand, and Myanmar: all countries of critical importance for the species (180, 196, 197). The trapping of birds for animal release ceremonies (also termed merit release), where individuals believe they gain piety for releasing captive animals, is also an issue in central and southeast Asia (198, 199, 200). The life-history of migratory shorebirds (small clutch sizes, delayed sexual maturity, moderately long-lived) prohibits sustained high levels of hunting or trapping and the threshold is lowered as shorebird abundance decreases (196). Behaviorally, migratory shorebirds are especially vulnerable to poaching as they form large flocks, move predictably at various spatial and temporal scales, and inhabit wetlands and coastlines where people concentrate (33, 196). Data on hunting and trapping in the flyway is uncoordinated and often nonexistent, impeding robust assessments of population-level effects (196). Varying social dimensions of poaching in different regions (recreational in Russia; market, subsistence, or religious in China and southeast Asia) makes it an especially difficult problem to manage. This problem is further exacerbated by typically poor species identification skills, resulting in the incidental harvest of species of conservation concern (156, 196).
Poaching methods vary, but typically include netting (including nets repurposed from fishing), poisoning, and shooting. The widespread availability of fine monofilament fishing nets has become a major problem in China and southeast Asia; poachers position them vertically along several kilometers of mudflat and often leave them open for days (169, 84). Poachers also employ methods such as bamboo whistles, decoys, and caged birds to attract shorebirds (201). These indiscriminate tactics contribute to the take of non-target species.
Russia. In Russia, poaching regularly occurs during the spring and fall waterfowl-hunting seasons (43, 125, 161, 42). Unfortunately, the seasons coincide with the congregation of large shorebird flocks during migration (48, 54). An estimated 45,000 shorebirds are killed annually in Kamchatka alone (197). Although most hunters target larger waders such as curlews and whimbrels (Numenius spp.), harvest of Tringa sandpipers is undeniable (57, 202). In Schaste Bay (a confirmed Nordmann’s Greenshank nesting area) and Udskaya Bay (a possible breeding area) hunters possibly collect several hundred shorebirds each year (136, 203). It is plausible that hunting caused the temporary extirpation of the species from Aniva Bay in Sakhalin Island, a former breeding site (26).
China. In China poaching is especially problematic in Tiaozini, an area that may support the entire global population of migrating Nordmann’s Greenshank and where a single incident may wipe out a significant proportion of the species abundance (70, 84, 204). Possibly 100 individuals were harvested around Shanghai every year in the 1970s (120). In the 1990s, ~30% of surveyed Taiwanese individuals admitted to participating in merit release ceremonies (198). Lackadaisical law enforcement means that wader trapping is commonplace, even in “protected” reserves (141, 164).
Southeast Asia. In Southeast Asia illegal shorebird take is fueled by cultural tradition and subsistence needs, and is especially difficult to manage in the many remote and impoverished communities (192, 70, 199, 182, 205). In Myanmar increasing numbers of young hunters reflects the lack of alternatives and growing pressure of an expanding population on the countries’ limited natural resources (95, 206, 207, 174). In Thailand, shorebirds are taken for subsistence or sale, especially near Pattani Bay and Ko Libong, both important sites for Nordmann’s Greenshank (70). An estimated 12,500–15,000 birds are harvested annually in Bangladesh, and poaching was once particularly widespread on Sonadia Island (another important Nordmann’s Greenshank site) until alternative livelihoods were found for several of its extremely impoverished residents (177, 208, 99).
Pesticides and Other Contaminants/Toxics
Although no observation prove the species to be directly affected by pesticides and other contaminants or toxins, these agents are often pervasive in human-dominated landscapes. In the Russian Far East, it is estimated nearly 30% of all natural areas are polluted with various chemical agents, in particular northeast Sakhalin Island (161). The entire Yellow Sea region is well-known to have high levels of inorganic phosphorus and nitrogen compounds, as well as various heavy metals (77). In China, a chemical industrial park in Rudong constructed a large waste pipe that leads directly to the intertidal flats, causing mass benthic invertebrate die-offs and unknown consequences to shorebirds (181). In southeast Asia, notably Thailand, intertidal areas are often polluted with heavy metals and chlorinated hydrocarbons as a result of industrial activities, agricultural run-off, and indiscriminate waste dumping (70).
Collisions with Stationary/Moving Structures or Objects
Other Human Impacts
Anthropogenic climate change may impact the species in a variety of ways. Tropical cyclones, floods and other natural disasters may become more frequent and intense, resulting in the loss of intertidal areas, wetlands, beaches, and other coastal habitats the species relies on throughout its range (209, 210, 154). Intertidal ecosystem migration in response to rising sea levels will be impossible in highly developed areas, further exasperating widespread habitat loss (81, 175). Erosion associated with sea-level rise may also increase the rate of habitat loss, especially along highly developed coastlines (93, 94, 112). It is uncertain how climate change may impact coastal Cajander larch (Larix cajanderi) ecosystems that the species relies on for nesting. As the tree species is very cold-climate adapted, a small increase in global air and ground temperatures may cause larch forests to shrink, retreat northward, or leave southern patches weak and unstable (211, 212, 213). Unpredictable precipitation patterns may cause unstable wildfire regimes throughout boreal ecosystems, including in Cajander larch forests (214, 215). Climate change may also create a temporal and spatial mismatch between any long-distance migrant and their biotic environments (for example migration timing and food availability), causing reduced fitness and increased mortality (169).
Tsunamis can destroy or degrade entire coastlines, especially along the southeast Asian Pacific Ring of Fire (209). Small population size in the species may cause issues with low genetic diversity such as inbreeding depression, and decreased adaptability in the face of climate change (154). Decreased abundance on the species’ breeding grounds may trigger an Allee Effect (a negative feedback loop that leads to decreased individual fitness and decreased population growth rate) as the species may no longer be able to nest in dispersed colonies (216; VVP).
Disturbance of Daily Activities
Anthropogenic disturbance forces shorebirds to expend more energy than their tight caloric budget allows (217). Recreational activities such as fishing, hunting, boating, and birding regularly push birds out of foraging, roosting, and breeding sites (81, 161). Along the Yellow Sea, excessive vehicular disturbance is common as the only roost sites available are often nearby roads (77). In Russia, reindeer herders, feral dogs, sportsmen, tourists, local settlements, and researchers have all unintentionally disturbed breeding Nordmann’s Greenshank (70, 54; VVP). In addition, shorebirds may “compete” with local human settlements for benthic fauna such as shellfish, shrimp, and crabs, often making the most productive foraging areas unavailable (70, 77, 218, 219).
On the breeding grounds the species’ main nest and chick predators are Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) and Large-billed Crow (C. macrorhynchos). The development of towns and settlements (and the subsequent increase in anthropogenic food resources) has led to an artificially inflated crow abundance and hence an increase in predation (18, 70, VPP). Chicks and adults may also be depredated by red fox (Vulpes vulpes), Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo), and Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) (VVP). Throughout its range, the species may be subject to predation by a variety of aerial and land predators.
The impact avian diseases may have on the species' population warrants serious consideration. Viruses are worrisome as most shorebirds densely congregate in large numbers and frequently coinhabit wetlands with waterfowl, which are the main wild hosts for the avian influenza A virus, gamma- and delta-coronaviruses, and handful of other diseases (220, 221, 222, 223). Additionally, in central and southeast Asia shorebirds are trapped, crammed in cages with various other species (where they may be exposed to a disease), and sold for prayer animal release ceremonies, possibly spreading disease to other wild birds after release (198, 199, 200). Overall, viral prevalence in shorebirds needs study.
Conservation Measures and Habitat Management
Increased Monitoring and Research. Conservation priorities need to be identified for a successful conservation strategy to be created and implemented for the species. Ideally, this would be based on the most up-to-date information about the species’ distribution, demography, life-history, breeding and non-breeding ecology, limiting factors, and important sites. Government authorities, site managers, wildlife researchers, bird-watching groups, and the general public can increase data sharing and standardization regarding the species across the flyway (160). The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) conducts annual comprehensive waterbird surveys and has significantly contributed to the understanding of the species’ critical sites throughout their overwintering range (100, 153). More information is needed from the breeding grounds, and breeding surveys in Russia would be extremely helpful. Citizen science initiatives (like eBird and iNaturalist) are becoming increasingly important in wildlife conservation and, if used appropriately, can further inform management and conservation plans (224, 225, 226). Increased data sharing would be in accordance with Objective 1, Action 5 and Objective 4, Action 1 and 2 of the Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI) EAAF Workplan; as well as Objective 3 of the EAAF Partnership (EAAFP) 2019-2028 Strategic Plan (227, 228). See Priorities for Future Research for a more detailed list of the species’ research needs.
Protecting Critical Sites. Due to the extent of planned and approved development projects (and the speed with which they are implemented) throughout the EAAF, designating newly protected areas to safeguard sites of international importance is crucial in preventing the species’ extinction (83). The Ramsar convention states that all sites supporting Nordmann’s Greenshank (satisfying Criterion 2: a wetlands supporting vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species), and all sites that support 12 or more individuals (satisfying Criterion 6: a wetland regularly supporting 1% of the individuals in a population of one species) should be recognized as internationally important and protected under international designation (see Appendix 1) (158). In highly populated areas “Man and Biosphere Reserve” designations may strike the balance between wildlife needs and sustainable human use (174). Any established protected areas need to coincide with effective management and abundant regional support to prevent the pitfalls of other “protected” areas. Developing a network of sites would fulfill Objective 1 of the EAAFP 2019-2028 Strategic Plan; while conserving key sites and habitats is one of five key aims of BirdLife’s Migratory Birds and Flyways Program, and would be in conjunction with Objective 2, Action 1 and 3 of AMBI’s EAAF Workplan (227, 228).
Artificial wetlands have been recognized by the Ramsar Convention (Resolution XIII.20), CMS (Resolution 12.25), the Global Flyways Summit, and the EAAFP Flyway Site Network as significantly important wildlife habitat. Their persistence is crucial in supporting Nordmann’s Greenshank and other threatened species as their availability and limited capacity may hinder the maximum abundance of the species in specific overwintering areas. Standards established by the Yellow Sea Responsible Mariculture Initiative (YSRMI) could be used as a model to ensure sustainable and eco-friendly aquaculture practices (229). Partnerships can also be established between local authorities, NGOs, and private stakeholders to ensure that artificial wetlands are appropriately-managed permanent fixtures that benefit both shorebirds and people (176, 173, 92, 24). This may serve as an alternative to the more difficult task of establishing new protected areas, and still maintain connectivity between offshore feeding- and inshore roosting-sites (112).
A resolution titled “Conservation of intertidal habitats and migratory waterbirds of the EAAFP especially the Yellow Sea, in a global context” adopted at the 2016 World Conservation Congress helped protect 14 wetlands in China, including Yancheng NNR (230). In 2019, two sections of the Jiangsu Province mudflats were nominated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites under “Migratory Bird Sanctuaries”, including Tiaozini Wetland Park (231, 162). Xiaoyangkou, another critically important area, has been proposed as a National Marine Protected Area (123). Recently 8 ha of habitat was purchased from a private landowner near Pak Thale, Thailand and established as a bird sanctuary (232). The Rainforest Trust and WCS recently helped establish Nijhum Dwip Marine Protected Area (MPA) in southern Bangladesh.
In Russia, paperwork was submitted to the Khabarovsk provincial government in 2016 to designate a number of bays along the southwestern Sea of Okhotsk (e.g. Konstantin, Ulban, Nikolay) as a nature monument, but as of yet have not received formal approval (18, 42, 61, 233). Efforts are also underway to designate Schaste Bay, Russia as a Nature Park (125, 136, VVP). The Shantar Islands archipelago was established as a national park in 2014; however, species presence on the islands is not confirmed. Other Russian nature reserves that may support the species include Dzhugdzursky, Komandorsky, Kronotsky, Magadansky and Lake Khanka.
Habitat Restoration. The Saemangeum Estuary in South Korea can be partially restored by opening the sluice gates and providing critical tidal flow to the suffocated mudflat (79). Other potential restoration projects include replanting mangrove forests in southeast Asia, converting abandoned aquaculture ponds to permanent supratidal roosting sites, and eliminating pollutants in wetlands throughout the EAAF (111, 174, 112). The transboundary Yellow Sea Large Marine Ecosystem Project (YSLME Project) and YSRMI were both established to help China and the Koreas restore the Yellow Sea’s natural resources, achieve sustainable ecosystem-based management, and create an area that is suitable to the needs of wildlife and people alike. Unfortunately, there are currently no known efforts to restore degraded habitats in Russia. Restoring habitat would be in accordance with Objective 2, Action 5 of AMBI’s EAAF Workplan (228).
Viable methods need to be developed for controlling smooth cordgrass throughout China and the Korean peninsula to restore ecosystem viability and prevent further intertidal habitat loss. Herbicides significantly pollute the surrounding area and only have temporary effects (234). Periodically burning smooth cordgrass is financially burdensome and is an ineffective long-term solution (235). Ecological engineering of tidal flats to facilitate smooth cordgrass substitution with the common reed (Phragmites australis) involves significant financial investment and tidal area modification, and only replaces one invasive plant for another (235). Harvesting smooth cordgrass and turning it into agricultural fertilizer or livestock fodder has limited application (235). As of now, two solutions have proved effective (cutting with prolonged waterlogging, and mowing with prolonged shading) to suppress smooth cordgrass abundance but both may have limited applicability and require intense management and substantial financial investment for long-term efficacy (236, 237). Controlling smooth cordgrass would be in accordance with Objective 2, Action 9 and 14 of AMBI’s EAAF Workplan (228).
International Cooperation and National Legislation. As the EAAF is composed of 22 countries with varying socio-economic and geo-political needs, synchronized international collaboration is critical to mitigate the threats facing shorebirds and reduce further biodiversity decline (154). Concluded international agreements can be centered on protecting sensitive and important wetland areas from development, overexploitation, degradation, and disturbance (157). Many EAAF countries are signatories to Ramsar Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), CMS, the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, and the Global Program of Action (GPA) and are a part of the EAAFP. All these conservation initiatives and organizations are broadly meant to preserve biodiversity, promote the conservation of wetland habitats and the fauna that rely on them, and ensure sustainable use of wetland components. In 2010 CBD developed a “Strategic Plan for Biodiversity,” a 10-year framework for safeguarding biodiversity and the benefits they provide to people. As part of this plan 20 “Aichi Biodiversity Targets” were adopted to help slow the rate of biodiversity decline by 2020; particularly important are targets 11 and 12 which commit countries to preventing the extinction of threatened species and increase the overall area and quality of protected areas. Improving international cooperation and developing flyway wide approaches would be in conjunction with Objective 5 of AMBI’s EAAF Workplan and Objective 5 of the EAAFP 2019-2028 Strategic Plan (227, 228).
Coastal ecosystem preservation in China and the Koreas has been strongly advocated at both national and international levels (160). Protecting shorebird habitats in the Yellow Sea provides many economic and ecosystem service benefits to people as well (77). In 2018, South Korea established the “National Biodiversity Strategy for 2019-2023” with ambitious biodiversity goals. In China, recent revisions to the Wild Animal Protection Law and other policy developments suggest the country is committed to slowing biodiversity decline, especially in coastal wetlands (238, 154, 176, 24). A “Caring for Coasts” initiative currently being built by CBD and Ramsar may further encourage coastal preservation throughout the Yellow Sea (228). Russia and southeast Asian countries can follow the lead and implement comprehensive biodiversity initiatives.
Hunting and Poaching Mitigation. Exhaustive efforts need to be made to better understand the socio-economic drivers of shorebird take in each country throughout the EAAF and identify the place-based actions that can be enacted to mitigate it. Simply closing hunting seasons is often ineffective as intertidal areas are too vast to be effectively patrolled (192). In Russia, if waterfowl hunting seasons were shifted to not coincide with mass shorebird migrations, hunting impacts could be greatly reduced (196, 197). Redesigning or modifying fishing nets to be “bird-safe” can significantly reduce incidental shorebird take during fishing operations (84, 204). Finding alternative livelihoods for impoverished communities may be the best solution to halt illegal take and improve the situation for people and shorebirds alike. For example, interviewed professional and semi-professional hunters in Bangladesh all showed interest in changing their occupation if they still had the means to support their families, leading the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Conservation Project (SBCP) to sign an agreement with 25 hunters, converting one into a tailor and the rest into fishermen (239, 240). The International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) has been supporting the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force and local partners in Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, and Thailand in employing local guards, removing illegal nets, providing hunters with alterative livelihoods, and establishing no-hunting laws in local communities with the support of local governments (89). Addressing illegal take is one of the five key aims of BirdLife’s Migratory Birds and Flyways Program and would also be in accordance with Actions 1, 3, and 5-10 in Objective 3 of AMBI’s EAAF Workplan (228).
Awareness and Capacity-building. Awareness about the importance of preserving viable ecosystems and protecting biodiversity is a preamble to action and needs to be raised on local, national, and international levels. Unfortunately, despite the extraordinary efforts of many international and domestic organizations throughout the EAAF, awareness remains too low within government, media, and the public to affect real change in the region (77, 169). Social media now plays a critical role in fostering awareness and can help garner international attention to the plight of shorebirds across the EAAF. Capacity-building and training of stakeholders, as well as wetland and wildlife conservation departments in local communities of underdeveloped countries, can be carried out to ensure that wetlands are managed sustainably and effectively (95). For example, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) works closely with local authorities in Indonesia and Thailand to provide communities the capacity and training needed to preserve unique and important habitats, simultaneously providing alternative livelihoods that do not involve natural resource exploitation (2). Similar efforts are being taken by many NGOs throughout the EAAF (232). Enhancing communication, education, and public awareness of the values of migratory waterbirds, as well as building the capacity of managers and stake-holders would be in accordance with Objectives 2 and 4 of the EAAFP 2019–2028 Strategic Plan (227).
Effectiveness of Measures
No information available; needs study.